Online forum seeks to boost work of ethics committees

Effective ethical research reviews are needed in developing nations Copyright: Flickr/phossil

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The growing demand for freely available information to improve the ethical review of health research prompted the launch of a new online resource last week (29 September).

Global Health Reviewers is a hub for people involved in medical research ethics. It provides external links to e-learning courses and policy reports, and contains specialist teaching resources that respond to areas of growing interest, such as genomic research.

The site is unique in providing a forum where ethics committee members and scientists can discuss research and exchange experiences, according to its editor, Susan Bull, a senior researcher at the Centre for Genomics and Global Health at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

"One of the concerns ethical committees raise is that it is hard to get access to resources, and they therefore feel isolated," Bull told SciDev.Net. The site tries to fill gaps in committees’ networking and helps them maintain discussions between meetings.

She believes the site can help build the capacity of institutions to respond to the ethical demands of research, especially in developing nations where such capacity is often poor.

Clement Adebamowo, director of the West African Bioethics Training Program, said: "Lots of ethical review committees [in developing countries] are not well grounded — they lack the organisational strength of those in developed countries".

He said the new website was a valuable resource, but added that people must be encouraged to use it, as similar resources in the past have failed to establish a large enough online community. "My suspicion is that with this type of resource, people still need local support and mentoring to make the most of it," he added.

Bull said she is taking such concerns on board, but is optimistic that it will be a success like its sister sites, Global Health Bioethics and Global Health Trials.

The site was set up with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Link to Global Health Reviewers